In the fall of 2011, cookbook author Judith Fertig took on an ambitious assignment: Write a book of cinnamon roll recipes in 60 days.
Fertig loves cinnamon rolls, and she’s authored more than 20 cookbooks on everything from bread to barbecue. Still, this was no easy task.
The expert baker holed up in her Overland Park, Kan., kitchen with colossal amounts of flour, butter, and sugar. She gathered four kinds of cinnamon and started rolling it into swirls of every shape and size. Her overworked oven churned out all kinds of crave-worthy creations: Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls with Pineapple-Cream Cheese Frosting. Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls spiked with ancho chile. Moroccan-inspired crescents filled with black pepper and rose petals.
Fertig would taste each one, then hand out leftovers to neighbors, friends and family members. “I was very popular for a while,” she says.
At the end of those two months, Fertig had lots of new friends and another cookbook: “I Love Cinnamon Rolls!” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012).
The book has everything from traditional sticky buns to gluten-free rolls. The recipes are customizable, so you easily change out the dough, filling, pan sauce or topping.
“I’m a mix-and-match person,” Fertig says.
Fertig says she wanted the recipes to be flexible because everyone has his or her own version of the perfect cinnamon roll.
Here in the Midwest, she says, we like our cinnamon rolls soft and feathery, with lots of gooey frosting on top. On the East Coast, people prefer sticky buns. In Colorado, it’s not a cinnamon roll unless it’s as big as a plate, and in the Northwest, vegan rolls are all the rage.
Don’t even get Fertig started on all the different kinds of rolls Europeans like.
As for the cookbook author, she’s a native Midwesterner, so it’s no surprise she likes cinnamon rolls that are soft and gooey, filled with lots of mouth-watering brown sugar and warm cinnamon.
“If you’re going to have a cinnamon roll,” Fertig says, “have a cinnamon roll.”
CINNAMON ROLLS, SIMPLIFIED
Everyone loves the sweet breakfast pastry, but not everyone is willing to put in the time it takes to whip up a batch from scratch. These tips from “I Love Cinnamon Rolls” author Judith Fertig save time and headaches.
—Skip the proofing step by using instant (or bread machine) yeast instead of active dry yeast.
—Stock up on boxes of hot roll mix, which contains flour, dry milk, salt and instant yeast, then follow Fertig’s recipe for Easy Cinnamon Roll Dough to have rolls ready in about two hours.
—Invest in a Danish dough whisk. The stickiest dough won’t get stuck in this $10 tool, which has two stiff metal loops.
—Use a serrated knife to cut cylinders of dough into rolls without smashing their round shape.
—Mix dough the night before, let it rise, then store it in the fridge until morning. “The cold makes yeast go into hibernation,” Fertig explains.
—Bake and cool a batch of Classic Cinnamon Rolls (recipe below), then stash them in the freezer. Next time you want cinnamon rolls, warm them in the oven and apply your favorite icing.
TRADITIONAL CINNAMON ROLL DOUGH
This easy dough, which bakes up all soft and feathery, can be kneaded with a mixer or by hand. “You know you’re done when you can stick your knuckle in it and it bounces back, like a pillow,” Fertig says.
Makes 6 jumbo, 12 large, 16-20 medium, or 48 minirolls
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
2 ½ teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast
In a 4-cup measuring cup, combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until warm (Careful: Exceed 130 degrees and you’ll kill the yeast). Whisk in the eggs.
Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the liquid ingredients. Mix on low speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time, until the dough forms a soft mass and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low, knead the dough with the dough hook. Sprinkle the dough with a tablespoon of flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the sides of the bowl. When the dough is smooth, not sticky, and springs back when you press it with your finger, you’ve kneaded it enough (4 to 6 minutes). Place the dough in a large, oiled mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it has almost doubled.
Proceed with a cinnamon roll recipe.
Source: “I Love Cinnamon Rolls!”
Per serving (based on 12): 209 calories (25 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 49 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 200 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.